Wikibooks:Reading room/Proposals

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Welcome to the Proposals reading room. On this page, Wikibookians are free to talk about suggestions for improving Wikibooks.

Category infrastructure[edit]

I propose some simple upgrades to our category infrastructure, which I think has been recognized as a problem for years. It's been upgraded a few times, and those were improvements imho, but it seems to me things can get a whole lot better with this next step I'll describe below. The two basic problems are that  (1) the current system is confusing, and  (2) it underrepresents the content of our books, which reduces the ability of readers to find relevant information and reduces the ability of other projects to provide sister links (for example, if Wikinews or Wikipedia or Wikiquote has a page about Barack Obama, they can't readily provide a sister link to Wikibooks because our category infrastructure doesn't support having a page like that).

So here are my ideas, all of which would be implemented in an incremental way that wouldn't break anything during the transition (I'm confident that can be done, and would see it through):

  • Book categories would have prefix Book:, and subject categories would have prefix Subject:.
Thus, the nature of every such category would be instantly apparent. For example, right now book European History has book category Category:European History and belongs to subject category Category:European history, which is confusing both when setting up the categories and when looking at the categories; as an admin, I've often had to untangle the results when people misunderstand how it all works. Under the new arrangement, these would be Category:Book:European History and Category:Subject:European history.
  • In addition, I suggest we have categories with prefix Keyword:, which are for categorizing page content.
Barack Obama would have a Category:Keyword:Barack Obama. It's important, I believe, to prefix all three kinds of categories, to keep very clear which is which.
  • There should be a template for adding pages to keyword categories, analogous to the existing {{Subjects}} for adding a book to subject categories.
Once we have that infrastructure in place, the task of populating the keyword categories will be simply an incremental thing that happens over a long period of time; I expect the process will get distinctly faster when, after a while, we get dialog-based semi-automated assistants on-line to help guide users through the tasks involved.
  • The list of subjects at the bottom of the main page of a book should link to the subject pages, not to the subject categories.
We've wanted to fix this for years; I can think of at least two possible ways to fix it, and mean to undertake that along with these other upgrades.

--Pi zero (discusscontribs) 15:19, 30 June 2016 (UTC)

I'd really like some feedback on this. Despite the smooth transition I envision, it's a significant change, and I wouldn't feel right moving forward on it entirely unilaterally. I'm willing to wait (heck, I don't think I would have been able to get started on it yet even if I'd been bowled over with enthusiastic responses when I first posted this); but really clarity about what others think on this is better to hear sooner than later. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 13:03, 25 August 2016 (UTC)
On the French Wikibooks we had voted a few years ago, not for a "Book:" prefix but for a " (book)" suffix (provided by {{BookCat}}). The subject categories had remained unchanged. So I could test this a while with Wikidata, and my conclusion is that there is no uniformization, sometimes the Wikipedia category is linked to a subject one, and sometimes to a book one, because when it's the only book of the subject, nobody creates a second redundant category. Moreover, here we are talking about thousands of categories, so I hope that you have some free time ;)
Concerning the "Keyword:", I was one of the firsts to use it for themes (hypernyms), but it has been cancelled for now. What about a categorizing template like {{k|Barack Obama}}?
But to sum up, the only point on which I would really disagree with you, would be to keep the "Subject:" pages, because I find these lists too much redundant with categories, and more painful to maintain. JackPotte (discusscontribs) 18:16, 25 August 2016 (UTC)
Atm the subject pages are the only reason there's any order at all in the system; they're spectacularly not redundant. The categories are hopelessly confusing, exactly because you can't tell by looking at a category whether it's a collection of pages of a book, or a collection of books. We keep having to fix books whose classification by subject is messed up because a book-category is being mistaken for a subject-category. Fortunately we have a system in place so that problems of this kind automatically get flagged out for us; but with the changes I'm proposing the problem wouldn't happen in the first place.

If we kept the existing categories as they are and also added in categories for collections of pages that aren't necessarily in the same book, the whole thing would be profoundly worse.

However, it would all work smoothly if we introduce an iron-clad, instantly recognizable naming scheme. Which is what I'm proposing to do.

A prefix, with a colon, is absolutely unambiguous ("iron-clad") and is the first thing you see when looking at a category name (because English is read from left to right, of course). A suffix "(book)" doesn't work nearly as well; we have a few of those, for situations where our stop-gap naming convention fails to distinguish between the name of a book and the name of a subject. Moreover, if you look at the list of categories at the bottom of a page, and those categories have these prefixes on them, you'll know instantly exactly what all the things on that list are.

I've had practice with vast structural rearrangements like this. Such things can be done, and can be done smoothly. The fact that it has to be done on each of about 3000 books just means it has to be lined up carefully so that it can then be done gradually, with very simple changes at each book that don't require a lot of thought and aren't going to be done wrong, and everything will keep working right while the gradual change is going on. Often this means doing it in multiple stages, where each stage has to be finished before the next begins. If we want to phase out the subject pages as a separate namespace, the way to not get tangled up in that is to do everything else first, and leave that as a separate stage, to be undertaken only after the rest of it is complete. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 19:15, 25 August 2016 (UTC)

@JackPotte: Trying to sum this up: We need a clear, straightforward action plan. I'm offering one. I'm willing to implement it. And, honestly, if we find something about it really doesn't work, we can change it later — in fact, after doing this I expect another change will be easier because I'll already have done it once. In particular, as I said, if we want to eliminate the subject pages after the categories have been straightened out, that's cool. But I need some sort of go-ahead before I can proceed. Are you okay with seeing me move forward on this, given that I'm willing to do it and that the things I do can be revised later? --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 17:24, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
@Pi zero: you have my blessing, but it's typically a bot job, and I can't see any bot belonging to you. As I would like to avoid to waste your time, may I suggest to transform Wikibooks:Desired bots to something we could link to d:Q4582561? Then we would be able to post these specifications and to share the tasks or the scripts to do them. JackPotte (discusscontribs) 18:12, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
Re bots, the thought is appreciated, but I don't like bots. I really don't. It's not just a personal preference, I disapprove of them philosophically. Wikis should never be maintained by an unthinking entity; the human touch is what makes wikis precious. If I already had my semi-automation tools ported here from Wikinews (which I don't; I'm not satisfied with them yet), I could imagine semi-automation for this, and indeed I have hopes that in the long run almost everything now done with bots can be handled by semi-automation, but for now I have in mind to do things by hand. Which has one beneficial effect: it guarantees my action plan will be simple, and that everything will remain in a consistent state while the work is in progress, because those things have to be true in order for it to be done by hand. Honestly, editing 3000 pages isn't scary; you just need to make sure there's a way to know what has and hasn't been done, and if you do just 64 a day, a month and a half later it'll all be done. (Semi-automation might allow you to do it all in a week or less.) --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 18:37, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
(I may, indeed, be able to devise a way of doing it so I don't have to directly edit the book pages at all, at least for most of the changes involved; that would be ideal. The previous set of infrastructure changes was feasible exactly because Wikibooks was already using {{subjects}}.) --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 19:53, 28 August 2016 (UTC)

I think the first challenge I'll take on is adding prefix "Subject:" to the subject categories. It's occurred to me that all these category names appear verbatim in the DPLs on the subject pages (see for example Subject:History), and I'm not sure how I feel about all those book titles having "Book:" prefixed to them. Perhaps I just need to get used to the idea. I've been aware for years that there are lots of situations where one really wants to snarf a DPL and then somehow further process the results, which the DPL extension doesn't support at all. I have in mind to semi-automate it using my dialog tools once they're deployed but for now that's not yet an option. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 14:40, 4 September 2016 (UTC)

An advantage on your new system would be to automatically display {{Book search}} into the books categories only. JackPotte (discusscontribs) 07:05, 22 September 2016 (UTC)
Good idea. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 09:04, 22 September 2016 (UTC)

Update: I've just been planning out the subject-categories campaign. As best I can figure, besides the categories themselves there are five key pages involved: Subject:Books by subject, {{Root subject}}, {{Subject page}}, {{Allbooks category}}, and {{Subjects}}; each of the five is transcluded on about two or three thousand pages (mostly, subject/category pages and the main pages of books). My basic plan is,  (1) modify the templates to support/populate the new as well as the old cats, and create the new ones;  (2) once the new cats are all available, modify things to use the new ones; and  (3) dispose of the old cats, not forgetting to do history merges when appropriate. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 16:14, 27 October 2016 (UTC)

Steps (1) and (2) appear to be complete. (3) is going to take a lot of time and meticulous effort, because it will require manually addressing the subject-categorization of every book, and book category, on the project (all 5872 — or so — of them). I can't really begrudge the labor, though, because most of it actually goes fairly quickly: the reason it's time-consuming is that it flushes into the open lots of pre-existing categorization errors, which then have to be fixed. So the whole project is going to be much better categorized by completion of this phase. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 04:23, 1 November 2016 (UTC)
I've disposed of 1/4 of the old subject categories. I'm rather encouraged about the infrastructure aspect of this; the most awkward/peculiar cases in the project are necessarily turning up and taking time-and-effort to fix, but it's all sorting-out that would need to be done for the next, and much larger, operation of renaming to book categories. Demonstrating that the larger plan is fundamentally coherent, as one phase aids the next. It's also so much easier to work with a mixed set of categories once you can tell at a glance that certain ones of them are subject categories, I'm quite encouraged about the wisdom of the larger renaming scheme. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 20:17, 12 November 2016 (UTC)
1/2 now. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 23:31, 23 November 2016 (UTC)
60% --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 21:59, 2 December 2016 (UTC)
70% --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 03:38, 6 December 2016 (UTC)
80% --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 23:16, 9 December 2016 (UTC)
90% --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 16:34, 16 December 2016 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done renaming the subject categories.

My sense, after that effort, is that the even larger effort to rename the book categories is just too large to undertake until I can bring semi-automation to bear on it; so I expect to put any near-future Wikibooks time into dialog/assistants. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 23:37, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

@Pi zero: This can probably be done with a bot that has admin rights. —Justin (koavf)TCM 04:17, 20 December 2016 (UTC)
I wouldn't care to try it with a bot. Every case is likely to be different, requiring careful human attention. I hope I can use it as a test case for "growing" a semi-automated assistant, though. That wouldn't happen immediately, but I think separating the subject categories, which is now done, was the more urgent task. I'd rather put overhead effort into the semi-automated route rather than the bot route, because the effort into the semi-automated route also benefits future assistants. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 04:30, 20 December 2016 (UTC)

Big books[edit]

Hi, this book has 3,568 pages. Is there any limitations for the number of pages? --Doostdar (discusscontribs) 07:58, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

@Doostdar: I don't understand that "book"; so far in my review of our entire library, it stands out as the most perplexing case. It appears that the book itself, with Pinyin as its main page, is simply a language tutorial; but then there are large subtrees that try to present themselves as books to the categorization system (but they can't actually convince the system of that; the entire infrastructure from top to bottom assumes that the part of a content-page-name before the first slash is the name of the book). If I fully understood what those subbranches are, I'd try to figure out what to do about them in the infrastructure; but I don't really understand, and haven't had a chance to look into it yet (there's the whole rest of the library to curate, after all). I'm under the impression there are pages being created regularly (I seem to recall some of them looked rather like news items), which suggests there's somebody we can ask, though it wouldn't be surprising if we'd have to cope with some degree of language barrier in doing so. --Pi zero (discusscontribs)
Pinyin is the romanisation of the Chinese language and used to aid the learning of Chinese. Many of the pages added regularly seem to be articles transliterated from Chinese sources.--ЗAНИA Flag of the Isle of Mann.svgtalk 13:25, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
@Xania: If so, that is likely to require large-scale admin action. If a copyrighted work is translated, the translation does not escape the copyright restrictions of the original; on the contrary, the translation is more restricted than the original since it has all the restrictions of the original plus whatever further restrictions the translator may impose. So if those materials are transliterations of copyrighted material, we are legally required to take them all down. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 13:52, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
After a quick look at a few random pages it seems that there probably isn't much to worry about, e.g. Pinyin/Philippines_Seizes_North_Korea_Ship_(2016-03-05). I can't imagine anything from this very short page was taken from a copyrighted source.--ЗAНИA Flag of the Isle of Mann.svgtalk 13:58, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
That does look pretty trivial, yes. Though it leaves the original problem of an enormous number of pages — we're talking about something like 7% of the pages in our mainspace, I think — that may not even be organized in book form. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 14:52, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

Size While discussion of this particular book is maybe worthwhile, the general question stands: do we have guidelines on size for pages, subpages, entire books, etc.? And should we? I imagine that if this were printed, these thousands of pages would not actually amount to half that many sheets of paper due to short entries, so that doesn't seem like a problem to me. —Justin (koavf)TCM 16:43, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

Most wikimedia projects, I think, in their list of things the project is not, include NOTPAPER. Although iirc the wiki software does put a limit on how many transclusions can be done on a page, so that with 3500 pages in Pinyin it probably wouldn't be possible to assemble a "print version" page by template transclusion. (I suspect you also wouldn't want to because the entire pile of 3500 pages can't be considered a book; more about that below.)

Common sense may dictate what should and shouldn't be done with a book. If there's a reasonable justification for having such a huge number of pages be treated as a single book, then, fine; I recall someone (possible Mike.lifeguard, back in the day) remarking that logically Wikipedia should be a book on Wikibooks (not that we want it here).

I'm more concerned that in fact this huge pile of pages, as a whole, isn't a book. The "main page", Pinyin, presents an outline that doesn't contain most of those 3500 pages. There may be various parts of the pile that could be considered books, including the part whose main page is Pinyin. There may also be large parts of the pile that aren't part of anything book-like at all, but rather are instances of treating Wikibooks as a web host (another item on the list of things Wikibooks is not). --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 17:10, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

@Pi zero: This project, Wikisource, and Wikivoyage are all intended to be printworthy. Wikitravel even had a press. I reckon the Book extension may help with this? We don't need to use templates to transclude pages. Don't get me wrong: this particular book merits discussion; I just don't want to lose the forest for the trees--Doostdar had a particular question that I don't want to get forgotten. —Justin (koavf)TCM 17:26, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
@Koavf: I agree it's desirable to be able to produce a print version of a book, but that desire should not impose limits on what a wiki book can do. Wikibooks is not paper. With wikidialog, I imagine we'll eventually implement some really cool interactive content that might then require extra effort to figure out how to render in hardcopy. I'm all for supporting hardcopy, but that shouldn't hold us back from exploring the interactive possibilities. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 17:37, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
@Pi zero: 100% agreed--especially since we can include multi-media (audio and video, even 3-D models) which cannot translate to print. —Justin (koavf)TCM 17:44, 16 November 2016 (UTC)
On the French Wikibooks, we've got a photography book with more than 3,000 pages. Probably one of the greatest in the world, and it wouldn't be the first world record thanks to these wikis. Moreover, I'm sure that the headache of splitting it in spite of its authors first plans, would be tyrannically useless. JackPotte (discusscontribs) 00:18, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
Did its authors have a plan? Or did it just happen? Or is it multiple efforts that happen to have used this naming scheme? And are all of those efforts books, or are some of them clusters of pages that aren't within our scope? And if the latter, should they be within our scope? I'm not suggesting answers to any of these questions; I'm saying we don't know the answers to them, and that we should. I do agree that the number of pages isn't necessarily unacceptable; we simply don't know enough yet. As for the merits of renaming, we don't even know whether that would be an appropriate measure to redress the situation... since we don't even know what the situation is. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 02:03, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
Apart from the number of pages, in my opinion there's another problem with this book: Notability. Book content does not seems to be pedagogic. It's more like a reference book or a dictionary. Just have a look at this page, it's like a dictionary entry. Does this book qualifies WB notability policy? I am active in Persian WB and don't know a lot about English WB situation but I'm sure it should comply with policies like WB:DICT--Doostdar (discusscontribs) 15:25, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
My opinion is similar. It seems that there is at least one book that's a subset of those 3500 pages, and I'm not sure if there may be more than one such book there, but those may well be only a small fraction of the 3500.

One characteristic of a book, I suggest, is that it has a main page that explains the purpose and organization of the book. I'm having trouble finding that for most of the pile of 3500. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 16:12, 17 November 2016 (UTC)

In fact, I've traced who is contributing to the book, and from past discussion on their talk page it looks as if there have already been discussions there about materials that may be dictionary rather than book, things that may be news rather than book, and non-neutrality. So in fact this probably is a major problem. It may even be the political machinery of a country using Wikibooks as a platform for propaganda. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 16:26, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
As Justin said there's a problem of size. While discussion of this particular book is maybe worthwhile, the general question stands: do we have guidelines on size for pages, subpages, entire books, etc.? WB handbook says "Books on Wikibooks are not constrained by the length of a printed page. There is no predefined minimum nor maximum length to a book." We know that this project, Wikisource, and Wikivoyage are all intended to be printworthy. For getting a print version we have to impose limitations on number of book pages. BTW we should put specific regulations for multi-media (audio and video, even 3-D models). I think WB:NOTPAPER is contrary to make a book printworthy. --Doostdar (discusscontribs) 09:57, 18 November 2016 (UTC)
The book can be significantly trimmed (and made closer to the scope of WB) by moving the mass of dictionary pages to Wiktionary. I'd support doing this. As for POV concerns, that's going to take a deeper look. QuiteUnusual (discusscontribs) 13:54, 21 November 2016 (UTC)
I agree, the first step to bringing this book closer to Wikibooks scope is to export the dictionary pages. I suspect the second step may have to do with news items, and may be more painful (because en.wn doesn't take new material about "old news"), but that's to deal with later. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 14:29, 22 November 2016 (UTC)

Abandoned books[edit]

Hi, what do WB policies say on abandoned stubs while they have a good structure like Catholicism? --Doostdar (discusscontribs) 16:20, 17 November 2016 (UTC)

If someone wants to adopt such a book, they get to decide whether to work with the existing structure or modify (or even replace) it. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 16:29, 17 November 2016 (UTC)
Why wouldn't we tag a Query template to it? Sure, it has a good structure to it, but there is absolutely no work beyond the main page. --Atcovi (Talk - Contribs) 14:52, 18 November 2016 (UTC)
[EDIT] And a "Basics page". --Atcovi (Talk - Contribs) 14:53, 18 November 2016 (UTC)
@Atcovi: There has been some discussion at RFD lately about how much material there has to be in a stub book for it to be worth keeping. I think an outline may or may not be useful enough to be worth keeping, depending on the outline and the nature of the topic. The question is, if someone came along and wanted to write such a book, would they find the existing outline a help or a hindrance. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 15:01, 18 November 2016 (UTC)

Well, this discussion would be worth debating about honestly. Worth debating about for future references when it comes to books like this. --Atcovi (Talk - Contribs) 15:07, 18 November 2016 (UTC)

Ah, the future. I have a vision for the future. I believe how easy it is to do things makes a huge different in the viability of a book, or any other wiki content unit (such as a news article or encyclopedia articles); and I believe semi-automated assistants, such as I mean to build using wikidialog, can completely transform Wikibooks in the long term, by making contribution to existing books, and altering the structure of existing books (and presumably other things I'm not thinking of atm), vastly easier. I'm reluctant to see stubs removed partly because I don't know how greatly their futures can be improved by semi-automated assistants and I would hate to see them removed merely because their value has been judged based on what can be done with them without semi-automated assistants. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 15:28, 18 November 2016 (UTC)
Yeah, it's pretty confusing. We'll probably need more opinions/comments? In my opinion it matters on an outline. --Atcovi (Talk - Contribs) 15:48, 18 November 2016 (UTC)
(My tool development btw, so far over on Wikinews, is taking me recently to some fascinating places I'd no idea were on the itinerary. Like, if you want a wiki community to grow assistants the way they grow content, you need to develop idioms for assistants that allow an assistant to be modified continuously from start through long-term maintenance, so that each incremental change produces an assistant that is useful as-is. And, to preserve the human touch (which imho is crucial), you not only need to allow people to not follow general advice, you need them to be able to preserve the decision so other contributors won't simply be pushed to follow the general advice but will know why their predecessors didn't do that.) --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 16:18, 18 November 2016 (UTC)

Wikidialog gadget[edit]

I've ported the dialog tools here from Wikinews. You can experiment with them by selecting the wikidialog gadget in your user preferences; it's the first gadget at the top of the list (deliberately: it's built to work no matter what else doesn't, since it's expected to be effectively part of the core wiki interface). The basic explanation of the tools is at Help:Dialog; repository for stuff built from them at WB:Assistant (nearly empty atm); my plan to take over the world is described in this essay.

Feedback invited. If there are no objections, I'm hoping to switch the wikidialog gadget to opt-out (so it's available to everyone, even IPs) in a few days, leaving time for a bit of testing and second-thoughts (though it's all designed to be quite simple, so hopefully anything that went wrong would be glaringly obvious). --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 03:18, 21 November 2016 (UTC)

@Pi zero: Thanks for this. Note that I slightly changed your link. —Justin (koavf)TCM 03:23, 21 November 2016 (UTC)
Have switched to opt-out; should now be live for everyone including IPs. diff. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 21:29, 25 December 2016 (UTC)